Within half an hour of President Donald Trump’s announcement of Neil Gorsuch as his nominee, a crowd of demonstrators gathered outside of the Supreme Court building to voice their opposition—not just to Gorsuch, but also to the situation that enabled Trump to name a justice to the bench this early in his term.
Many of those who ringed the steps had come prepared to protest either Gorsuch or Trump’s apparent runner-up, Judge Thomas Hardiman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Some participants held signs they had received only moments before, which read “Oppose” in large block letters over an empty space in which Gorsuch’s name was written by hand. (None of the protesters to whom I spoke knew who had been in charge of distributing these signs.) Other, generic signs were distributed by organizations that had helped plan the demonstration, including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Alliance for Justice. And some held signs that focused not on Gorsuch but on the perceived wrong to Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Court who languished for nine months as Senate Republicans denied him the chance for so much as a hearing.
One participant to whom I spoke made it clear that she had heard about the protests even before the news that Gorsuch and Hardiman would be flying in to D.C. in advance of Trump’s announcement. She said that she had received an email from Planned Parenthood the previous night announcing a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court building at 9 p.m. regardless of which of the two candidates Trump chose. She and three acquaintances suggested that, though disappointed that the seat had been left open for Trump to fill, they were willing to reserve final judgment until they learned more about Gorsuch.